Achara in Baccarat a la Marketman

Achara, acharra or atsara…whatever the spelling, I love it. acar1Pickled green papaya is a one of my all-time personal favorites. As a kid, I was told that when visiting other people’s homes I just had to eat whatever was put in front of me without making a fuss. This was a tough rule considering the only vegetable I consumed before ten years of age was sliced cucumber with a vinegar and sugar dressing! At any rate, on provincial sorties with my parents, I learned to be polite and place rice on my dish, a little of the viand (even if it was bat adobo!) and lots of achara if it was on offer. Then I would slowly move food around, eat all of the rice and all of the achara and wait for dessert. I did many a meal this way and look back fondly at the stuff that saved my rear end — those pickled papayas. For someone who absolutely adores the taste of achara, I am amazed to say that I have never made it from scratch…

Turns out achara is incredibly simple to do. acar2Take some unripe papayas and peel and de-seed. I grated the papayas on my trusty mandoline which resulted in absolutely perfect strips that were consistently thin and relatively long. I understand a grater will do just fine but the strips will be less consistent. Slicing a thin julienne would take you the better part of the afternoon unless you are a CIA graduate (Culinary Institute of America, not Central Intelligence Agency, silly). I then sprinkled the papaya with salt and let it stand for 2-3 hours and squeezed the liquid out of it. Next, grate some carrot; I used perhaps ten times the amount of papaya compared to the carrot. I julienned some young ginger and sliced some (don’t overdo it) garlic as well. Add some thinly sliced red bell pepper for color. I put all of these ingredients in clean (boiled) jam jars and filled them almost to the top. Meanwhile in a pan, heat up 2 cups of apple cider vinegar, ¾ cup sugar (more if you like it sweeter than tart), about 1/4 cup (or less) rock salt and heat this up until sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour this over the shredded veggies in the jar. Make more of the vinegar marinade if necessary, using the same proportions. Allow to cool, cover, let it marinate in the refrigerator for 4-5 days before eating.

The resulting achara was superb. acar3Slightly crunchy and nicely tart. Excellent with fried food such as fish or barbecued pork. I was really amazed how easy that was and incredibly economical. I do not particularly like the achara that is made by boiling the green papaya as it results in incredibly limp pickles. By the way, have any thoughts where the name is from??? It’s the Marketman quiz of the week. Here is the answer — I spent over 5 years in Indonesia and Singapore eating great food (when not toiling in the coal mines) and always present on the table were chilli and pickles, the latter also known as acar (pronounced ACHAR) in Malay or Indonesian so achara is probably a derivation of this Malayan root word. Pretty neat, huh? And Marketman’s final homage to achara? I served it in a little Baccarat crystal jam dish in the first photo above that’s why it looks so high brow…heeheehee.


19 Responses

  1. thank you for the achara recipe mr marketman. i’ve been wanting to do it from scratch too.

  2. I liked the third picture better MarketMan. Your vintage-ish ball canning jars give it a more nostalgic air. Make fancy cutout christmas trees and stars out of papaya and carrot slices to line the sides of the jars and you have a nice Christmas basket stuffer.

  3. Michael I like the Ball jars too. I have re-used them several times already. But I thought I would play on the humble relish in ridiculous crystal… gemma, I hope you get the same results!

  4. Came across your blog and enjoyed it. I love Achara! I first had it with the barbequed chicken at Aristocrat restaurant. My mom’s friend sends me her homemade Achara from Manila. She sent me a big container of Achara two years ago and all I have left is in a small plastic container and it’s still good. I haven’t tried making it just because I can’t find any green Papaya in our local grocer. Anyway, my mom is going back to Manila in February and I’ll get my Achara for sure. One drawback in eating Achara is that you’ll need to brush and rinse with a gallon of mouthwash to get rid of your ‘Achara breath’. LOL

  5. Achar is derived from the Indian word for pickles. Indian cuisine has a very wide variety of relishes.
    Achara is great for a week in the fridge without sterilizing but if you want to keep it longer I suggest you do the hot water bath after filling the jars unless you want to culture salmonella, botulism, etc.

  6. Achara is just wonderful! I even give it a dash or two of hot sauce and it’s just perfect! Perfect!

  7. this post reminds me of my grandparents….i remember them making acharra at night, para daw walang langaw, dapat daw kasi malinis lahat… lolo will really squeezed the grated papaya dry and I remember seeing gallons and gallons of vinegar…… i miss their acharra, sadly no one in the family does it anymore…..maybe i’ll give it a go someday :)

  8. Mother never tried making acharra. She deferred to neighbours who could indeed balance the sweet and sour better than she ever did. Before the successive waves of Vietnamese immigration started, green papaya was not available here (in North America) so we cravers for acharra expropriated sauerkraut as a base for our acharra.

    Since acharra is a kind of pickle, it reminds me of an article I came accross The Atlantic Monthly of a report of pickle judging in a state fair where the winner was a jar of pickled carrots. The sliced carrots were carefully carved to look like small gears and were arranged along the wall of the jar to appear as though the tiny gears meshed together. The author added than the patient arrangement looked so ingenious that had you tried turning just one gear, it would have started the entire set-up to spin together.

  9. edee, try it one day, it’s really easy and if it fails, really low cost so you don’t feel too bad. Apicio, maybe the carrot pickle was done by a transplanted filipino who couldn’t find green papaya on the East Coast? At any rate, it sounds fantastic.

  10. In addition to Karen’s acharang kangkong, acharang dampalit is popular too in Malabon and environs. Dampalit is a succulent weed that grows on fishpond levées. Somebody I know who is particularly fond of this secures his supply with an annual home visit. People’s attachment to certain food is trully amazing, it is the most tenacious of all ethnic traits, I think.

    In Bataan pigs have a predilection for salty dampalit. Pigs fed on it, darak and pulot they say provide the tastiest pork. Probably true. After all, mutton from sheep pastured on grass growing along the land-bridge to Mont Saint Michel at low tide is highly sought after too for its special flavour.

  11. Hello, i am an avid reader of your blog, i’ve been reading all your posts since last night,my baby is already sleeping so walng distraction sa pag-babasa. in our place in calaca, batangas, achara making is like a backyard industry, pag may handaan especially fiestapalaging may achara. i remember my lola she used to sell achara papaya and labong too when it is in season(tag-ulan) and we used to bring some squares of labong to a lady who made dibuho (design) on it and its placed in the jar together with the julienned labong. they don’t include carrots in their achara too and my aunt who makes them now has two kinds the dalaga or thw wide strips (they used a makewhift wooden mandolin for it) and the other is the thin strips – she uses the laspador or the one that is used for the melon when making juice – do i make sense at all. anyway thank you for this wonderful site at least feeling ko nakakauwi ako everytime i read your posts.

  12. Inggit naman ako you have access to green papaya! The ingredients for the pickling juice are very much like those I use in my bread n butter pickles (using cucumbers), as I have guessed when I first tried making them (kaya naging pamalit ko sa atsara kasi ala naman akong makuhang really green papaya dito. The one time I bought a green papaya, I was dismayed to see it yellow and quite ripe inside, I could not even use it for tinola! Yet it was not ripe enough to be a pleasure to eat raw!
    Anyway, a reader of my blog (who also cans jams, jellies, and pickles) was asking me about atsarang papaya or to lead me to some other foodbloggers(after she read that I am using BBP now as substitute), so I made my search and landed on yours (I think it has the ingredients and the procedure that come closest to PROPER PICKLING, you know, the type that does not end in the fridge or one served right away, but one that can actually be stored in the pantry, ready for serving anytime).
    THANKS A BUNCH for this recipe. As soon as the nearest Pinoy food store here gets some green papaya, I will be sure to make this per your recipe, para ako naman ang me ma-share na pickle recipe sa byanan ko. I am sure they will love it, too.

  13. Manang, my recipe doesn’t go all the way as in real pickling and preserving in a pantry because I do not boil the bottles filled with acharra to kill bacteria as I find that overcooks the papaya. This version must be kept in the fridge but will keep a couple of weeks. It is crisp and very fresh tasting…You might want to try this with canned heart of palm if you want a taste of home but can’t find green papaya… If you or anyone else lives in a major Western city, a Thai food store should have green papaya on offer…

  14. MM, yes, but you did post a suggestion about processing for about 15 minutes. Seeing the proportion of ingredients in your pickling solution, I think that processing in water bath canner will suffice or may not even be needed (like in my BBP) since the pure vinegar-sugar combi is inhibitory to growth of microbes, but to be on the safe side, I plan to process in water bath for 15 minutes below boiling point (like how I do with my dill pickles.

  15. Yes!!! Thank you for letting me know I don’t need to process the papaya further in a canning jar. I bought the Ball jars, but I promptly returned them when I read the instructions on canning. Like you, I like the papaya to be crunchy.
    So I’m a bit ignorant on using Ball jars: I thought the whole idea for processing in a canner was to make the ring and lid stick together. Oh, and kill microbes, for sure. I didn’t know the ring and lid were still separated after processing. Now, I know. Thanks, Marketman!

  16. WARNING to those trying this recipe, use rock salt or kosher salt. Using table salt will make this way too salty…sorry, I wasn’t clearer in the recipe… And as a notice for all other recipes in this blog, I rarely, if ever use fine iodized salt in cooking a recipe… :)



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